Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tip #5: Think Outside of the Box with Chocolate Covered Strawberries

With Valentine's Day quickly approaching, your customers are likely requesting the classic, delicious chocolate covered strawberries. Have you considered also creating something to satisfy those non-traditional romantics?

We’ve compiled just a few ideas to add some fun and variety to a tried and true favorite 

Go Tropical - Cover your strawberries in chocolate and then dip them in a tropical topping such as coconut, dried fruit bits or even lime or lemon zest. 
Pile it On – Many confectioners create candy and caramel apples that are layered with goodness, so why not apply the same principle to your strawberries. Maybe you could do a layer of chocolate, then caramel and then sprinkle a few nuts.
Add Some Color – Use colored sugar crystals to create a rainbow of strawberries. Dipping them in white chocolate first will make the colors stand out but milk and dark chocolate lovers might want some color, too.
Combine Classics – Dip your strawberries in chocolate and then cover them in classic favorites such as sprinkles, chocolate morsels (for those ultimate chocoholics), cinnamon red hots or candy bar pieces.

Do you do something different or creative with chocolate covered strawberries? Leave us a comment. We'd love to hear about it!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tip #4: Free Tools for Measuring Your Social Media Presence

You’ve listened to everyone saying you must have a Facebook page, Twitter handle and maybe even a blog, but how do you know these things are working? How do you leverage social media platforms for your business?

We have gathered some of the top free tools available to collect data from your social media networks and make sense of it. Check them out and let us know what tools you use!

Facebook Insights – Facebook has a built-in tool for measuring and analyzing your Facebook page. As you know, Facebook often has changes and updates and it’s the same for Facebook Insights. They recently revamped it so that you can view even more information about your page. To access Insights, just click on the “Insights” link on the left side of your Facebook page. From there, you can view a detailed analysis of your page including items such as likes,  reach and engagement.

NetshellMail – Rather than logging into each account separately, this free tool allows you to receive updates on your social media accounts through a single weekly or daily email.  NetshellMail currently supports Facebook Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp, MySpace, YouTube, Foursquare and Citysearch.

Hootsuite – One of our favorite features of Hootsuite is the ability to schedule posts to social media accounts in advance, but did you know it also has great analytics features? You can monitor keywords, followers, trends and engagement.

Tweriod – This free tool will analyze your Twitter account and let you know when your followers are most engaged on Twitter. Then, you can schedule your tweets at times when your followers are most likely to see and respond. No login or registration is necessary; just enter your Twitter account information and it will email you a report. Tweriod suggests doing a monthly analysis since behaviors tend to change over time.

KloutKlout measures your online influence. How many people are you really reaching? Are you driving them to action? Visit this website for your Klout Score to find out how significant your online influence really is.

Do you have tools you use to monitor your company’s social media presence? Leave us a comment and share below!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tip #3: Four Ds to Declutter Your Desk

We know how easy it is to let emails and papers pile up on your desk or in your inbox. The following Four Ds of Decision-making will not only reduce clutter but also increase your productivity. You may want to share this one with your employees and colleagues!

The principle of the Four Ds is that you must do one of the following upon receiving an email or other item. By deciding what to do upon receipt, you avoid the temptation to say, “I’ll deal with it later.”

Delete – Ask yourself if this email or paper contains information you can find elsewhere? If it’s a duplication of information, then you can safely trash it.

Do – Is it an item that will take just a couple of minutes to do? Take a moment to do it and you won’t regret it. There’s no point setting it to the side if you can do it quickly. Take care of it and then you can probably delete it. Tip: If the item is something you need to read such as industry articles and news sources, create a “To Read” file and set aside time each week (or day) to read. As you’re reading, don’t just flag pages to come back to later – if you find an article contains information worthy of keeping, tear it out and file accordingly.

Delegate – If you can’t delete it or do it quickly, you may need to delegate it to an employee or colleague. Maybe it’s an item that shouldn’t have come to you in the first place, or it could be that you’re not the right fit for what needs to be done. If it’s an email, forward the email to your team member and request confirmation that they’ll take care of it. Then, you can safely delete the original and move on.

Defer - Lastly, after deleting, doing and delegating, there may be some items that only you can do and that will take a little longer to do. First, determine your deadline for the item and then put it on your calendar to do in light of the deadline. By deferring items according to deadline, you’ll be sure to first complete the items that are most important. For example, instead of spending useful time on something that you have three months to complete, you’ll be able to focus on the task that is due next week.

As a candy and chocolate maker, you have so many things coming to you in one day. We hope today’s tip will help you create order out of what could be chaos.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tip #2: Let Your Marshmallow Breathe

Making your own marshmallow? Congratulations!

We’ve got a tip to help you get the most out of your time and product. Don’t store your marshmallow too quickly! Be sure marshmallow is completely at room temperature before cutting and packaging. Marshmallow needs to breathe for a while or else the warmth may create moisture and you may experience mold on your product. A general rule of thumb is to let marshmallow sit overnight before cutting it and storing it. Also, think about what you are dusting your marshmallow with. Corn starch doesn’t allow it to continue to breath once packaged. Other options? We hear toasted coconut is pretty tasty!

If you have some marshmallow tips to share, please leave a comment! We want to create a community of sharing here at the RCI Tip of the Week blog. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tip #1: Write Down Your Ideas

We are in the first week of January - the week of new beginnings, right?

Have you been coming up with new ideas for your business for 2012? Our first tip of the year is to write down your ideas when you think of them. Candy makers live fast-paced lives, moving from chocolate tempering to supply ordering to payroll, oftentimes all within the first hour of the day. If you don't write down what you're thinking, there is a pretty good chance you'll forget it.

Here are some of the useful ways RCI staff and members track ideas:
  • Pencil and Paper - Sounds old-fashioned, we know, but it works! Keep a notebook and pen with you at all times and you'll be ready to write down (or draw) those brilliant ideas when they come.
  • Apps  (this is a small sampling of the many available note-taking apps for your smart phone)
    • Notes - Most smart phones have a 'notes' app that allows you to type in notes to be saved in your phone. You can save it and get back to it later and you can usually email your note as well.
    • Evernote - This cross-platform application allows you to keep all of your brains in one place and access them from anywhere. Our favorite feature: when you search by keyword it actually searches handwritten text inside of your images (Example: Take a picture of a handwritten sticky note and it saves it and includes the handwritten text in the search!). From evernote.com: "You're always moving, your notes should be too. With Evernote, your memories are on every computer, phone and device you use." 
    • reQall - This app lets you record your ideas and then send them to yourself in a variety of ways (text or email, for example). Also incorporated is a reminder option to help you 'reQall' your notes. We haven't used them together, but the reQall website says there is a reQall for Evernote to get the best of both applications
  • Email - Sitting at home on your computer? Email yourself the idea so you'll have it in your inbox when you get to work. Of course, you can usually do this with your smart phone as well.
  • Google Notes - Google Notes allows you to collaborate with multiple users. Rather than emailing your colleague back and forth, you can share a notes page and see each other's additions and edits.  Plus, if you already have a Google account, it's one less username and password to remember.
We know this is just a few of the many ways to write down your thoughts. Share your ideas in the comments below: How do you take notes and ensure you don't forget those great middle-of-the-night ideas? 

Be sure to check back for next week's tip! Want a hint? We have an answer to a sticky question.